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giving away float sessions as marketingThis June, we decided to see what we could do to get into the tourist market. Portland is getting to be a more and more popular place to travel to, and making Float On one of “The Top Things to do When Visiting Portland” seemed like a worthwhile venture.

I started by going and doing cold, door-to-door visits to hotels to chat with the managers about carrying brochures at their location. In total, I talked to about 20 locations, three of which agreed to stock our brochures on the spot. 16 of the other 20 locations had their brochures (and brochure stand) provided by the same third party company: CFS. The last of the 20 didn’t actually carry brochures, but they did rent rooms by the hour instead of by the night.

As it turns out, CFS stood for Certified Folder Supply and not only did they provide most of the hotels I’d visited with their brochures, they did the same for 22,000 locations on the west coast, about 230 of which were in the Portland area.

giving away free floatsFor a brochure stocking company, they also have a pretty rad history, going back over 110 years to providing schedules for the trains at their various stops.

(Note: There are similar services for the east coast, and in other countries too, although there’s no guarantee that they’ll be as cool as CFS.)

Along with our first delivery of brochures through CFS, we had the brochure distribution driver hand out a nice letter introducing Float On, and giving them 3 free floats, which they were invited to use or pass on to their staff. Between the 230 locations, we gave out around 700 free floats.

Even though we’re all about giving away free floats, there was a bit of concern that 700 all at once was an awful lot, and that we might cut into our profits from paid clients. Taking this into account, we planned for launching in June, leading up to the summer slump when we’d have less clients anyway (and when the tourist season was just starting up).

Grain of Salt: Having done marketing for awhile, and having played with direct mail campaigns, I didn’t anticipate more than 10% of people using the floats, which wouldn’t be enough to be concerned about. It’s a two edged sword, because at 20% or more we’d be generating a lot of good word of mouth, but we’d also likely be eating directly into our revenue.

As of the writing of this blog three months later, 25 of the floats have been used, or a whopping 3.5%. We’ll probably have some stragglers come in, but I doubt that it’s going to rise above a 5% redemption rate – far less than even my conservative estimates.Beginners Guide to Floating Brochure

The conclusions I draw from this are mostly positive. Without getting to pitch hotel operators and concierge’s ourselves, it’s not the easiest thing to get people to come in for a strange service. It’s likely, though, that we garnered a fair amount of goodwill and awareness simply by making such a kind gesture.

In addition, we did wrangle a couple dozen people in the hospitality industry to actually hop in the tanks without putting any real burden on our schedule, and without taking away slots from paying customers.

In the end, giving away a huge amount of free floats to a broad group of people worked out just fine. It’s something I’ll be playing around with more in the future, working on getting those redemption rates up a little bit more (or on choosing a slightly larger niche group to give even more free floats to next time, so that if the redemption rate is low, at least the number of new floaters is a little higher).

A personal phone and email follow-up is something I’ll be adding into the next campaign I do: a more personal, one-on-one approach is probably needed to get a high percentage of people actually into the tanks. Even if they already have three float certificates sitting right there in their hands.

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